Orlando Hernandez hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger in the big leagues since 2007, and he hasn’t thrown a pitch anywhere this year, but he had not announced his retirement. Until now. At least according to multiple Tweets to that effect, most notably by Jon Heyman.
El Duque pitched nine seasons in the majors, most memorably with the Yankees, for whom he was a key part of their 1998, 1999 and 2000 World Series championships. He got another ring with the White Sox in 2005. In those nine seasons he went 90-65 with an ERA of 4.13 while registering 1086 strikeouts to 479 walks.
But Hernandez was obviously more than a line of stats and some World Series rings. One of the most celebrated Cuban baseball players ever, he famously defected in December 1997. The story was that he was on a leaky raft, risking life and limb. The reality was that he was on a fishing boat with a big-ass engine, and once he reached the Bahamas he was flown to New York on a chartered jet. Hey, it’s showbiz.
Most famously, of course, and certain to be the subject of lots of one-liners as the morning wears on, was the matter of his age. He claimed to be 28 when he defected, but hardly anyone believed that. A few years later it was revealed in some leaked divorce papers that he was born in 1965. While Major League Baseball still lists a 1969 birth date for him, everyone else who matters — Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN, etc. — uses the 1965 date. There have been rumors, however, that he is much older still. It’s rather academic now, at least until he applies for medicare or wants to access his 401K or something.
Always a fun guy, and the dude that should probably have his picture next to the word “crafty” in the dictionary, El Duque — though he has been off the scene for some time — will be missed.
Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.
Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.
Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.
Ken Rosenthal has an interesting story up about Sergio Romo as he begins spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There is some fun stuff about his family, all Dodgers fans from southern California, but the more notable stuff is about Romo himself, who has dealt with a lot more than has been reported over the past couple of seasons. The loss of three of his four grandparents is a big one, as it has thrust the mantle of head of the family on Romo in ways that he was not fully prepared for. There are also allusions to personal and psychological problems Romo has experienced — there is a vague suggestion of alcohol or maybe just late nights out and perhaps depression, but he is not specific about it — which he worked on with the help of friends and teammates on the Giants and which he now has overcome.
There’s always more going on the lives of baseball players than we as fans know.